A scheme which has provided a million pounds’ worth of support to community groups across Northamptonshire is in danger of closure.
ProHelp gives local groups, clubs and charities free access to professional services they would not otherwise be able to afford. But now the scheme itself needs an urgent cash injection – and the region’s businesses are being asked to help save it.
ProHelp was founded in 1999 and since then has supported around 800 projects.
Firms sign up to the group, and then undertake one-off projects such as feasibility studies, structural surveys or property valuations, the development of marketing strategies or business plans, and all types of legal and financial advice, for the charities and community groups that approach ProHelp for assistance.
Over the years ProHelp has provided more than 5,000 hours of services – the equivalent of more than two and a half years of support; and it has given free access to expertise estimated to be worth around £700,000.
For the last six years most of ProHelp’s running costs have been met by the European Regional Development Fund, but that backing will end in September.
Around £50,000 a year is needed to keep the scheme going.
Now a drive to recruit more firms to sign up to the scheme has been launched. Every new Northamptonshire firm which joins ProHelp will help to reduce the funding shortfall through a membership fee ranging from £100 for sole traders up to £1,000 for the largest firms.
Companies which don’t want to commit to giving free services are being invited to consider a cash donation.
Unless £50,000 is raised, ProHelp is likely to close by the end of 2015.
The unpaid support brokered through ProHelp is currently volunteered by 17 local companies – including solicitors, accountants, architects, surveyors, engineers, PR consultants and graphic designers.
Any interested businesses should contact the Chair of Northamptonshire ProHelp Richard Burkimsher, a partner at Hawsons Accountants.
Richard said: “It’s enormously rewarding to be involved and we know it makes a huge difference. It would be a tragedy if the scheme was lost, so we need the whole business community to step up and help us keep this brilliant scheme going.
“If ProHelp finishes, the losers will be Northamptonshire’s charities and community groups.”